Sunday, September 18, 2016

I built a boat.

It was a rough start to the month, but one of the ways to keep the black dog at bay, is to keep doing things that make you happy. Gaming does that for me.   I determined that, apart from snuggling up with my wonderful wife this weekend,  I would build something - but what I wasn't sure. 

Then Malc Johnston over on The Wargames Website, posted the second part to his Trouble on the river Liu River 1900 series, and there was one of the simplest little gunboats I have ever seen.  Even I could do that! So off to the man cave I went.

HMS Demetrius

The Story of the Demetrius

The HMS Demetrius was originally the SS Demetrius the result of a failed private commercial venture to modernize grain shipping on the canals of Mars. One Thomas Pincham, of the automated loom threader Pinchams, fancied himself an off-world Brunel and invested his fortune in transporting a small single screw steamship to Mars. A devotee of ancient Greek culture, he christened his endeavour Demetrius or The Servant of Demeter, goddess of grain. Pincham had visions of his ship sailing up and down the canals, unfettered by wind or flood, delivering the harvest of the fields to the cities of Mars and of course their British advisers. Where trade lead, the Empire followed! Accomplishing this first required many trips and naturally massive transportation charges as each etherliner had limited space for mercantile cargo and that was at a premium price. The parts of the SS Demetrius arrived in fits and starts. Each shipment was placed in what was supposed to be a secure storage yard until assembly could begin.  

...or is it Detritus? 
Sadly this was not to be. Due to varying capacity on the etherliners then in service, parts were shipped according to their size and weight rather than their ability to be joined up in any coherent fashion with the components already landed.  Over time, the costs mounted siphoning away the Pincham fortune into the ether eddies of too many interplanetary voyages.  Finally though, the last item on the last manifest was checked off and using the dregs of his bank account, and rather too many loans, Pincham could get to work.

Only, the storage yard was not as secure as might be hoped and some of the local workers found the temptation of so much refined iron irresistible.   Several major and many minor components had disappeared over the back fence only to resurface as unrecognizable tools, jewellery and trinkets in the local bazaar. Pincham was devastated.  But fate was not done with him yet and the final blow fell - the customs man arrived with a very large and very unpaid bill for duties owing on Steamship (1) parts and accessories. With financial ruin certain, Pincham could not also face the social opprobrium of debtor's prison.

Fortunately for Pincham, if not for Mars and the Empire, it was at this moment that Oenotria decided to flex her muscles and attempt to force the Earthers out.  Steam vessels of any variety were desperately needed. The boilers and machinery of the Demetrius were not suitable for airship use but the vessel itself could be useful for control of the canals. Pincham magnanimously and patriotically, offered the Demetrius to the Government for the price of his customs bill with a bit left over to support him in at least comfort, if not the luxury he had once been accustomed too. His one requirement being that the ship retain her name as a symbol of "A great British mercantile dream now lost to the savage winds of war!" This was agreed to and the ship or her parts at least, were signed over to the Imperial authorities. Pounds in hand, and reputation mostly intact, Pincham left the planet without delay and disappeared into middle class obscurity.

It was now that the Royal Navy, her engineers and their civilian counterparts arrive to take stock of what they had bought. One less polite senior engineering rating remarked:
"It's not a ship! It's a f______ pile of c__p!  I've scraped things better able to float off the bottom of me boot! HMS Demetrius eh? More like HMS Detritus I say!"

The name stuck. It took many months and much improvisation but the HMS Demetrius was finally launched and placed into service. Her work on the canals was initially uneventful but recent attacks from the shore and air and have required that the original wooden wheel house be replaced with an armoured one. Because of  the lack of armour plating, Martian concreted armour was used instead giving the structure the look of a pillbox.

Build Notes

The Demetrius is quite literally made up of bits of scrap wood and MDF from the workshop. Malc's build  showed me that you can get a good result from simple materials. The smoke stack top and base are parts of a small decorative wooden apple drilled out to take a length of dowel I already had on hand. The galley chimney is spent .40 brass I picked up at a range years ago. The superstructure is glued and screwed and set back from the deck edge to allow a single rank of figures on either beam and a standard artillery base fore and aft. The armoured wheelhouse is a Type 22 pillbox that didn't print as well as I would have liked. I located it off centre to add a little visual interest even though an off centre weight his high up is generally not a good idea.  All it needs now is a coat of paint and some deck cargo for cover, and it's off for action on the Martian canals.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

20 mm Conversions for Chain of Command

First, a couple of warnings. The photos are not great - the camera is old and I am no Karsh. Secondly, 20mm is my cheap and dirty scale to do North West Europe quickly and with a small investment. Efforts are focused on getting toys on the table rather than on painting and I am no great painter to begin with.  Finally, painting and basing is not entirely complete. For those that were supposed to be, I was unable to find matte spray so had to settle for eggshell. Even though the can was very thoroughly shaken eggshells are apparently shiny. Everything will get shot of proper matte in the future.

One of the practical problems one can face when playing low rated forces in Chain of Command is the need to provide support. When playing a Canadian Motor / Infantry Platoon in NWE or Italy and possibly facing Elite Fallschirmjaeger the need becomes urgent since up to 26 points of support might need to be provided. To address this I need to make up a few teams that don't appear in the usual boxes of 1/72 plastics.  For others, I just wasn't happy with the provided poses.
Flame and Bren
First up is a flame thrower centre with a Bren gunner on the right. The source figure is on the left.  For the Bren I just cut away the barrel of the Enfield and replaced it with the forepart of a Bren cut from another prone figure,  The flame gun is just a length of stretched sprue. Having looked more closely at the life buoy unit, I would use a Thompson figure next time as the grip looks better. 

Back of the life buoy
I cut away the existing backpack to make room for the iconic fuel tank. I had hoped to use a tiny rubber O ring for the tank but I was out, so I used a 1/72 wheel retaining bushing from the bits box instead. It is too square in cross section but will do for now.  The fuel line is thin solder.

PIAT to Bangalore wire cutting figure
Just a quick slice operation to remove the PIAT and Sten then a hole was drilled to take a length of brass rod cut to length.

Demolitions Unit
A simple swap of the original PIAT ammunition carrier on the right to a satchel charge on the left.  The satchel is two 25mm US small packs glued back to back. An earlier attempt used two full packs but was well over sized.

Polish Mine Detector (right)
Another simple conversion by cutting away the rifle and using plastic sprue. The detector unit is a part number tab from from a model kit that just happened to be the right size and shape. Though the back pack had most of the detail scraped off to look more like an electronics box, I felt that trying to make the headphones was a route to insanity. There should be a counterweight on the end of the pole but I have yet to find a good picture.

Medic and casualty
This is not much of a conversion as all I did was cut away the Sten (see below) and add a medic bag using another US small pack and a bit of flat dental floss to make the strap.  All but one of the pictures of Canadian Medics I found show the armband on the left arm. I felt though that it was more obvious on the right and was also much less of a pain to paint (and I do have one supporting reference).

Officer to Platoon Sergeant
The original figure is on the far left. As noted above I cut away the Sten from another of the casualty figures - it was a bit delicate slicing it off the leg without damage - a sharp #11 blade is required. It was then a simple process to trim away the pistol and swagger stick and glue the Sten in its place.

Forward Observer
Very minimal work here. The radio operator is a stock figure. The FO is a kneeling Vickers gunner with  a bit of thin brass sheet cut to size and inserted in a small slit to make a map.

Sniper Team
Even less work on this one. Just a bit of stretched sprue for a scope.  Yes I know it's too big, he traded some whiskey to an American for an unofficial civilian model.... 

2" mortar crews - Conversion left and out of the box right.
Revell made a rather good British infantry set with all sorts of useful poses, Stens and support weapons. Sadly it is now out of production. On the left is my attempt to put together a mortar team out of mostly Italeri/Esci bits. The mortar was made from a bit of brass rod. The mortar man's arms were trimmed and re-positioned to hold the tube. Both the mortar man and the loader were originally less than useful Esci Bren figures who donated their weapons to create more dynamic LMG gunners as noted above.

After making one of these, a package arrived from certain paint sniffing dog.  In it was the much sought after Revell set! The mortar team from this shown on the right.  While I am proud of my little conversion, the pre-made one was a darn sight easier to put together.  Thank you Dog!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Dinos on the Dance Floor!

I had a lot of fun with the dino-hunt back in May so I thought I should paint up some more victims for future such games.  I wanted to avoid the usual green lizard patterns so I just went with whatever I fancied. The sharp eyed will spot one influence, the real cammo nerds - another.

For the final spray I was unable to find any matte varnish so made do with satin. It works ok for dinos but not vehicles or or human figures.

Triceratops in a daring print

Mega-velociraptor Maltesi

Steggie - No change other than a wash and spray

A pack of  small carnivores

Mid to late war Tyrannosaur

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Bus Conversion - Part 1

As mentioned in my last post, during my travels in Malta, I picked up three toy busses. Two have been put aside for display and future use in a Hercules game but the third was earmarked for my British Home Guard.

Three Busses

I will note here that there are several different scales and manufacturers of busses available and at wildly varying prices. These were the nicer of the 1/48ish scale that I found. I picked them up from a store in the otherwise touristy Buggiba at 12 euros for 3.  The exact same models were 8 euros each in the airport store.  Caveat emptor!

Not being a Bedford expert, I believe that these were from a primarily post war series but a handful were built in '39 and they look right, so I am not going to sweat the details.

The Victim
The models are of Chinese manufacture and feature a white metal body on a plastic chassis with plastic windows and detailing.  The chassis is fixed to the body with two phillips screws so disassembly was trivial.

Bits and Pieces
The chrome bits are held on by the chassis pins and the windows just pop out with a gentle push on the securing tabs. Some detail is created using stickers but overall the paintwork is actually very good. I was actually reluctant to carry out the next step.

Stripped for Service
Into the paint stripper went the body. Unlike some Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars I have stripped for Car Wars where a thick layer of paint obscured significant detail, the paint was quite thin and came off easily and cleanly.

At this point, I am not sure how I am going to proceed,  My initial thought was a simple conversion with the windows as is.  As I look through various period conversions, I am now leaning toward armoured radiators and rifle ports in plated over windows. This will involve a lot more modelling work though.  Much to ponder and more to follow.